Sooners season ends in 1st round

The Sooners played hard and played pretty well overall but lost 83-78 in overtime to Rhode Island in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This isn’t going to be a season-in-review post but I do just want to look back on yesterday’s loss and see to what degree the Sooners were able to do the things they needed to do in order to win.

The first thing we said here that the Sooners needed to do to win was to push the tempo. They were more successful all season long when they played more possessions, averaging 78 possessions in their victories and 74 in their losses. Against the Rams yesterday, they played 77 possessions but that was in a 45-minute, overtime game. The Sooners had success when pushing the tempo, getting several baskets in transition by beating the Rams down the court, but they weren’t able to do that for extended lengths. The 77-possession pace for 45 minutes equates to about 68 in a 40 minute game, which is considerably slower than the Sooners needed. As an example, the Sooners played 84 possession in their OT win against TCU earlier in the season. Grade: C+

The Rams are very good at turning teams over and we said it was important that OU take care of the ball as the Sooners tend to be turnover-prone. The Sooners only had 14 turnovers for the game — pretty good considering we played the extra 5 minutes.  Grade: B.

We said the Sooners needed to get to the free throw line more often and the Sooners were able to shoot 24 free throws. Young did this especially well which is important since he was the team’s best free throw shooter but the Sooners were also hurt a little by the fact that the team’s 2 worst free throw shooting regulars (Odomes and McNeace) shot nearly half of the team’s 24 free throws (making just 4).  In wins, the team had averaged 27 free throws and, for a 45 minute game, 24 isn’t quite enough but it’s better than the 17 the team averaged in losses. Grade: C+.

We needed to shoot the ball well and we just didn’t, shooting 42% overall and 20% from three. The fact that the team made just 4 of 20 3 point attempts is really the biggest reason the team lost. James, McGusty, Manek, and Odomes combined to shoot 1 for 11 from behind the arc and that’s just not going to get it done. Based on how they’d performed throughout the season, they should have made about 4 of those attempts. Trae Young shot it best but even he just made 3 of his 9 attempts. If the team makes 6 or 7 of those 20 3-pointers, the team probably wins in regulation. Grade: D.

Finally, the team needed to defend well enough to prevent the Rams from shooting well. In that regard, the team did ok. The Sooners defended better than they did for much of the season, holding the Rams to 39% shooting overall and 39% from behind the arc. The fact that the Rams knocked down nearly 40% of their 3’s isn’t great but it’s better than the Sooners did in many of their games. Grade: B-.

The Sooners did a lot of the things they needed to do in order to win the game but, ultimately, the game is about putting the ball in the basket and the Sooners just didn’t do it often enough. The game boiled down to the fact that the Rams shot 11-28 (39%) from 3 point land and the Sooners just shot 4-20 (20%). Those 7 additional 3’s made a huge difference since, if the Sooners had just knocked down a couple more, they probably wouldn’t have had to play overtime at all.

Just put the ball in the basket. It’s simple, but not easy.

Thanks for reading.

Playing to OUr strengths

I’ve been thinking for a while that the Sooners’ tempo on offense has really slowed down as the season has gone along. I didn’t have really any evidence to support it — if you check out their number of possessions per game on KenPom, it’s down a little from the non-conference schedule, but not a lot — but it just seems like the offense really moves more slowly than when the team is winning. Maybe the tempo numbers are a little skewed by the fact that Trae Young takes 4-5 really quick 3’s. I just don’t know.

The defense against Young has been different, to be sure. Teams are picking him quickly as he crosses halfcourt and slowing the team down but it still seems like Young is walking the ball up the court much more often than he was early in the season. That doesn’t seem like who the team was at the beginning of the season when, coincidentally or not, the team was really rolling and made it up to #4 in the country.

I was watching one of those NCAA tournament preview shows and 1-by-1 many of those talking heads were ranting about the Sooners making it into the tournament and Tom Crean chimed in to defend the Sooners. He said that he’s called 3 OU games during the year, including the win at Wichita St. and he was going on and on about how tremendous they looked against the Shockers. He was talking about how quickly the Sooners were getting the ball down the court and scoring and he said of the Shockers, “10 minutes into the game, they were gassed.”

I went to ESPN.com to look up the play-by-play info for that game — possibly the Sooners most impressive win this season. The table below shows what I found (“WSU’s possession indicates how Wichita St.’s preceding possession ended):

Possession # Time of Poss (seconds) Result WSU’s possession
1 13 Young missed 3 make
2 16 Lattin turnover make
3 7 Manek missed 3 miss
4 9 Young 2 turnover
5 12 Manek 2 miss
6 18 Manek 3 make
7 8 Young 3 miss
8 15 Manek missed 3 make
9 5 Young missed 3 timeout
10 14 Young missed 2 make
11 13 McNeace made 2 turnover
12 5 Young layup & FT steal
13 15 McNeace FT’s turnover
14 10 Young 3 make
15 12 Freeman missed 3 make
16 15 Young 3 make
17 22 McGusty 3 miss
18 22 Young 2 make
19 8 Young missed 2 make
20 11 Lazenby TO make
21 6 McGusty 2 make
22 13 McGusty missed 3 make
23 7 Manek 2 block
24 17 Manek 3 turnover
25 13 McNeace missed 2 miss
26 13 McNeace missed 2 miss
27 15 Manek 3 make
28 11 Manek miss make
29 6 James missed 3 block
30 18 Manek 3 make
31 18 Shepherd missed 3 miss
32 7 Young miss block/td>
33 16 Young 3 foul
34 18 McNeace miss miss
35 5 James missed 2 make
36 8 Young FT’s miss
37 8 James missed 2 miss
38 6 James 2 miss
39 25 McGusty 3 miss
40 9 McGusty 2 make
41 19 Manek missed 3 miss
42 0 James 2 off. reb.
43 21 James missed 3 make

So, here are the relevant numbers. The Sooners had 43 offensive possessions in the 1st half alone and averaged 12.6 seconds per possession. The Sooners scored 54 points in the first half and had a 54-39 lead over the Shockers IN Wichita. OU had only 4 possessions where they took more than 20 seconds to get off a shot and one of those was their last possession of the half where they were aiming to take the last shot.

Notice that the Sooners were getting the ball down the court quickly off of Shocker misses and makes. Even when the Shockers made buckets, the Sooners got the ball out of the basket, pushed it up the court, and got quick buckets before the Shockers could set up their defense. Three times the Sooners were able to score within 10 seconds of a Wichita St. MADE basket.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed either that there are a number of Wichita St. turnovers and OU blocks that led to Sooner possessions. Clearly the team played very good defense in the 1st half. If OU had 43 possessions, so did Wichita St and they only had 39 points in the half so a team that averaged 1.22 points per possession during the season (5th in the nation) averaged less than 1 PPP in the 1st half against OU.

Clearly a lot went right during that first half against the Shockers. The Sooners were able to block a few shots that helped them get the ball down the court and they were also able to turn the Shockers over several times so they clearly played good defense. More importantly, the Sooners shot the ball well in that 1st half (57% overall and 10-23 from 3) but not out-of-this-world. The team scored 54 points and had a 15 point lead because they were efficient (only 2 turnovers) and got the ball down the court quickly. It’s probably also fair to say that one of the reasons the team did shoot the ball pretty well is because they were able to take a number of shots before the Shockers’ defense could set up. I think we can all agree that the Sooners just didn’t move the ball down the court this quickly very often during Big 12 conference play.

Maybe this is the key to the Sooners’ success in the tournament. They need to get back to doing what it is that they do best.

Thanks for reading.